Seven Ways to Kick Off the Season of Giving

Maybe it’s the feel-good spirit of holiday cheer. Or maybe it’s that comfortable sensation you get from too much turkey or eggnog. Whatever the cause, there’s something about the holiday season that makes us want to give selflessly and with abandon—or at least more than usual. It’s one of the greatest things about the holidays, and the feeling is beyond compare. So embrace the spirit of giving! Give your time, your money, even your thoughts and warm wishes. What you’ll get in return will more than make up for the effort. Not sure where to start? Here are seven great ideas to get your give on, just in time for the holidays.

#1: Adopt a family.

Unfortunately, not everyone looks forward to the holidays. For a mom or dad who can barely afford their family’s most basic needs, the added pressure and expectations of the holidays—presents, meals, decorations—can be devastating. And that’s where you come in. Many local charities, such as the Salvation Army and local women’s shelters, offer adopt-a-family programs where you provide gifts or gift cards to families in need. There’s even a program called Soldiers’ Angels that offers assistance to military families on fixed and limited budgets.

#2: Overtip.

Working over the holidays can be a real bummer, and no one knows that better than service industry workers. But know what makes it a little easier? The awesome unexpected act of kindness called overtipping. It’s so easy to do, and just that little bit of extra goes a long way in putting a smile on someone’s face and making their holidays a little brighter.

#3: Bake up some holiday cheer.

You’re probably already baking cookies and goodies for the holidays, so why not just double the batch and donate the extra? It takes almost no extra effort and can be a sweet surprise for a local firehouse, charity, bake sale or family in need.

#4: Don’t forget your four-legged friends.

Food banks receive many requests for pet food and supplies, but very few holiday drives include pet supplies. Programs like the Humane Society’s Fill the Bowl Project and Monster Holiday Drive help extend the holiday spirit to our furry friends. Or go local by donating pet-friendly goods or volunteer time to nearby shelters.

#5: Spend some time at a nursing home.

One of the best ways you can spread joy this holiday is by visiting a nursing home. Even short visits provide a healthy, heart-warming dose of social interaction and conversation—something many nursing home residents cherish more than any gift. Before you go, contact your local nursing home to find out what you can bring and get other helpful tips before your visit. And, hey, you might hear some great stories and pick up some wisdom along the way.

#6: Spread the love with random acts of kindness.

Holiday giving isn’t just about formal visits or donations. Sometimes the best ways to make the holidays brighter are the little things we can do every day. Smile at a passing stranger, compliment a coworker, leave extra change in a vending machine, or give someone else your prime parking spot—anything that might bring a little lift to someone’s day.

#7: Send a real card to a hospitalized kid.

Sure, emails and text messages are great, but if you really want to send some hope and joy, consider making a card and sending it through Cards for Hospitalized Kids. It’s a fun, hands-on project for adults and kids alike, and it teaches a valuable lesson about the power of kindness and giving.